The Denver Nuggets entered the Western Conference playoffs as the number one seed following a stellar regular season. But there was a bit of nervousness in the air about the Nuggets title aspirations when their second round opponent was decided: the Phoenix Suns.

Denver fared well against Phoenix in the regular season, and obviously finished with a superior record, but the Suns are healthy now, with quite possibly the league’s scariest three-headed monster: Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul.

Each player is a star in their own right, and each player offers a different style of attacking your defense and putting up points in bunches.

But the three best players on the court in Game 1 were Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon.

Jokic had more or less a “standard night,” by his two-time MVP expectations, putting in more work on the boards than usual and dishing out a few less assists than average. Jokic finished the night with 24 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists on 9-of-21 field goal shooting.

Gordon was aggressive and efficient, scoring 9 buckets on 13 attempts, including 3-of-4 three-point shooting to finish with 23 points in 39 minutes.

But the star of the show was Jamal Murray, who lit up the scoreboard and the standing-room only Ball Arena crowd possession after possession. Murray’s shooting line: 13-of-24 from the floor and 6-of-10 from three-point range, doesn’t even begin to describe the difficulty of the shots he was taking. When nothing else was working on an offensive possession, Murray could shake and bake his defenders to create his own shot all night.

Michael Porter Jr.‘s stat line doesn’t jump off the page (11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) but the small forward was efficient with his shot selection (5-of-9 shooting) and led the game with a +29 court rating.

The Suns offense ran through Kevin Durant (29 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 12-19 FG) and Devin Booker (27 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds.) Deandre Ayton (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Chris Paul (11 points, 5 assists) also contributed on offense, but Phoenix’s scoring attack wasn’t deep enough to keep up with the Nuggets. Durant committed a team-high seven turnovers, with Phoenix losing the ball 16 times in total.

Phoenix led 32-31 following a back-and-forth first quarter, but a 37-19 Nuggets run in the second quarter blew the game open for a 68-51 halftime lead. The Suns cut the Nuggets’ lead to single digits in the fourth quarter, but Denver responded accordingly before the lead was ever in serious danger.

For the second series in a row in these playoffs, the Nuggets take a 1-0 lead, and are now 4-0 at Ball Arena this postseason.

While some fans may have seen the star-studded Suns as the front-runner in the series, Durant wasn’t having any talk of the Nuggets being some kind of underdog.

Game 2 will be back in Ball Arena at 10:00 PM ET/8:00 PM MT on Monday night. For more Nuggets coverage, be sure to follow Sak Sports Blog on Twitter.




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Header Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

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